Days of Our Sourdough

Most recent attempt involved a double batch and making half of it into rolls–really going out on a limb there! Result was nice flavor, better texture than most other attempts, but not as good as the holy grail result from a couple of weeks ago. The dough was a little tough to be rolls, I was looking for something that would hold up well with sliders and it did the trick, although again a little more chewy than preferred. 

So on I march and the Days of Our Sourdough will continue…

In Which We all Relearn That Writing Down the Recipe in Your Own Words Shows One Where Things Went Wrong

Or sourdough bread, again.

This sourdough bread is going to be the death of me, I tried again today and the failure was epic, no lovely picture to share. I suspect what went wrong was I used the left over starter from the last bread and it didn’t have enough flour for the yeast to eat so it didn’t have enough structure. This resulted in a flat, lump mass that didn’t resemble bread in any way. It could have also been that I was distracted and in a hurry and skipped a step thinking since the starter had gone through part of the process I didn’t need to be so careful, which was so.not.true.

However, a learning opportunity is available to us here (ok maybe just me, but take the ride with me anyway). I am going to write down the recipe in my own words and see if that helps me to focus and follow the directions better, because honestly, I love you RLB, but your instructions are long and cumbersome.

Phase One

When starting with a liquid seed starter, as I am, mix in enough flour to make it a stiff starter, then proceed.

  • Ingredients
    • 50 g stiff starter
    • 50 g flour
    • 25 g room temp water
  • Method
    • mix together with a spoon, then your hands
    • oil a small bowl, place starter inside
    • cover and ferment
      • 2 hours if using within 2 days
      • 1 hour if using within 3 days
      • 30 minutes if using within 1 week

Here’s where I get confused, what if I’m baking this now?? Ok really in the next 24 hours because this bread takes about 2 days to make. So assuming you’re continuing on without waiting, let’s assume after one hour you proceed to the next phase…

Phase Two


    • 25g starter
    • 50g flour
    • 25g water


    • after one hour at room temp (or up to one week in the refrigerator and one hour at room temp), tear off starter, discard the rest (this goes against my nature, but according to RLB you can save it and add a little to other breads for flavoring, making me feel much less wasteful)
    • stir in flour and water, mixing until there is no flour left in the bowl
    • it will weigh 100g
    • oil a 1c measuring cup, press the starter into the cup-it’s about 1/3c, and cover with plastic wrap
    • rest 6-8 hours, or until doubled, it should be about 2/3c

Phase Three


    • 100g starter
    • 200g flour
    • 100g water


    • tear off 100g of your starter (discard any extra), mix in flour, water in the same way as you did before-spoon then hands, leave no flour in the bowl
    • you’ll have 400g of starter at this point
    • oil a 4c measuring cup, press the starter inside-it will be about 1 1/2c, and cover
    • ferment about 6 hours until doubled to 3c
    • you can refrigerate the starter for up to 18 hours at this point

Phase Four


    • 230g bread flour(ap flour works also if that’s all you have)
    • 95g medium rye flour(I used dark rye it didn’t seem to affect the good loaf)
    • 232g room temp water
    • 360g starter
    • 14g caraway seeds
    • 10.5g kosher salt


    • if starter has been refrigerated, leave at room temp 1 hour before using
    • mix flours with a dough hook on #2 on a Kitchenaid, add water, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary for 3 minutes (speed setting and time is important)
    • cover bowl with plastic wrap and rest 20 minutes
    • break starter into four pieces and mix them into the flour mixture on #2 on a Kitchenaid for 2 minutes
    • add caraway and salt, mix on #4 for 3 minutes
    • oil yet another bowl, a 2 quart one this time, and scrape the dough into it, place a piece of tape on the outside of the bowl to mark where roughly double the dough would be.
    • cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof 1 hour
    • scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface, deflate and shape into a rectangle and fold it into thirds, this is called a business letter turn
    • return to the container, proof another hour
    • stretch and fold the dough again, return it to the container and proof 3 1/2-5 hours or until doubled

We’re in the home stretch now…

Phase Five

    • cover a sheet tray with parchment or a silpat
    • turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten, without deflating it. Round dough into a ball by gently pulling the edges toward the center and pinching them together by making a pouch, turn over and spin the dough in a circle with your hands while tucking it under itself (this is a good video, at about 2:40 she explains how to make a boule, which is what we’re doing here)
    • place dough on the sheet tray, cover with a large bowl, something that is big enough that when the dough has doubled in size it still won’t touch the dough.
    • proof 3-4 hours or until dough has doubled
    • in the last hour of proofing, preheat oven to 450 degrees F, and place a cast iron skillet on the floor of the oven. make sure your oven shelf is at the lowest level and it’s preferable to have a pizza stone on the shelf

Phase Six

    • measure 1c of ice
    • make an egg wash, using 1 beaten egg and 1tsp water
    • slash the top of the dough three times with a sharp edge, be careful not to cut too deep, it’s about 1/4-1/2″
    • set the sheet tray on the baking stone and toss the ice onto the cast iron skillet and quickly, but gently close the oven door
    • bake 5 minutes
    • turn temp down to 400 degrees and continue to bake 15 minutes more
    • gently remove bread from sheet tray and place on the stone, turning it for even baking
    • bake about 35 minutes more, or until when the middle of the bread is poked with a skewer, it comes out clean (in my oven it took about 25 minutes)
    • allow bread to cool completely before cutting, it’s worth the wait

So that’s a bit long and cumbersome still, but I’m pretty sure I understand where I went wrong today and next week we shall try again. So join me next week on more adventures in baking sourdough rye bread.




Sourdough Rye Bread Take 3 (or maybe 10, I’ve lost count)

After a few attempts with the sourdough starter I think I’m finally getting it. I made a single loaf of the Sourdough Rye from Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s The Bread Bible. It looks beautiful (taste testing later once it’s cooled). I still need to perfect the scoring on the top, but otherwise I’ve made progress, hooray!

20140627-094212-34932651.jpg 20140627-094214-34934156.jpg

Bread was better than I imagined. Feeling pretty proud.


I’m very interested in this notion about bread making I found on Rose’s website,

Adding Old Starter to Bread Dough
Aug 12, 2008 | From the kitchen of Rose
Several of my recipes I’ve offered on this blog give an option for adding oldunfreshed stiff sour dough starter when making bread dough. I do this to add depth of flavor, moistness, and longer shelf life. I always have left over starter after the weekly feeding of my sourdough starter so I freeze it exactly for this use.
I would not want to add it to a soft bread dough such as a soft white sandwich loaf or brioche because it makes the texture slightly firmer. But I do add it to most other doughs and I do add it to challah because it makes the dough more stretchy and easier to braid.
You need to keep in mind that there is no salt in this starter so you need to add extra salt to balance the flour and water. You may also need to use a slightly larger pan or cut off the equivalent amount or weight of dough and bake it as a roll.
If you retard the dough overnight, it will not rise quite as high so you can then use the same size bread pan as the one you would use without the starter. A bread that rises to 5 inches for example will rise to only about 4 1/2 inches if retarded for 8 to 12 hours.
Of course you will need to make or purchase a sour dough starter and add enough flour to it to make it the consistency of soft bread dough.
To determine how much starter to use in the dough, multiply the weight of the flour in the dough by 16% and that will be the weight of the starter.
For every 75 grams/2.6 ounces of starter add 1/8 teaspoon salt to the recipe.
I like to soften the starter by cutting or tearing it in pieces and soaking it in the water used for the dough for 30 minutes before adding the other ingredients. This helps to distribute it more evenly throughout the dough….


I’m looking forward to playing with this more.



This Week’s Bread Experiment

Thanks to for a lovely Wheat-Rye Sourdough recipe this week, which is in turn from Chad Robertson’s Tartine No. 3. I didn’t have coriander on hand and wanted to have more than caraway so I added some fennel and cumin, all toasted. The cumin gives it an interesting flavor that probably is too strong for most (I’m on a cumin kick right now so I may not be a great judge, I liked it), the fennel however is a mellow underlying flavor. I have never toasted and crushed my caraway before adding it to the dough, but I would definitely recommend that.

I don’t have dutch ovens so I use my cast iron pans, they aren’t deep enough to use lids with bread so I skipped the covering part and sprayed the loaves with water instead. If might be good to spray them againhalf way through, which I didn’t do, but will next time. When I cut into the loaf this  morning I thought it was a little undercooked–it was a little sticky inside–but this afternoon it looks just right. I will definitely make this recipe again.


Ingredient Amount Percentage
Whole Wheat Flour 225 g 45%
Bread Flour 225 g 45%
Rye Flour 50 g 10%
Active Sourdough Leaven 75 g 15%
Water 400+25 g 85%
Caraway Seeds, Toasted/Ground 10 g 2%
Coriander Seeds, Toasted/Ground 10 g 2%
Salt 10 g 2%


The night before (or at least 7-8 hours) you make your dough combine 2 tablespoons of unfed sourdough starter with 100 g of water, 50 g of all purpose flour, and 50 g of whole wheat flour.  Still until there are no dry bits of flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit out overnight.  This will be your active starter the next morning.  A drop of the starter will float in water when it is ready.

When ready, disperse the starter in 400 g of water in a large bowl.  Add all flour and mix by hand until there are no dry bits.  Cover and let rest for one hour.

After the hour is up add salt and remaining 25 g of beer/water.  Mix well and cover the dough again.

For the next two hours ‘turn’ the dough every 30 minutes.  This means grabbing the underside of the dough, and stretching it up and over the rest of the dough.  Perform a few of these turns each time you handle the dough.  After the first turn work in the coriander and caraway seeds.  After two hours is up, let the dough rest for another hour before you turn it again.

After the third hour, let the dough rest another 30 minutes.  Then turn it out onto an unfloured surface.  Flour the top of the dough and flip it over.  Work into a round shape and let rest for 30 minutes.

Following the bench rest flour the top of the dough again, flipping it over after so the flour side is face down.  Fold the third of the dough closest to you inward, and then stretch the dough out to the sides.  Fold the right, and then left, sides in toward the center.  Fold the top of the dough inward, and then wrap the bottom part of the dough over it all.  Work this into a round shape, and place seam side up in a proofing basket lined well with flour.

Let rise for 3-4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator).  One hour before baking place a dutch oven, with the lid on, in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.  Once hot, drop the dough into the pan and score the loaf.  Immediately place the top back on and return to the oven.  Turn the heat down to 450 degrees and cook for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes remove the top of the dutch oven and rotate the pan.  Continue to bake the bread for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is deeply caramelized.  Enjoy!


Finnish Pulla Bread

My kids are having international week at school, and the last part if that is a potluck. I’ve been racking my brain all week about what’s easy to send (I’ll be at work sadly) and something the kudos line that is but free and doesn’t involve cookies. Last night it came to me, pulla. Pulla is a Finnish holiday bread that my mom makes every year for Christmas, and we have always called Finnish biscuit. Turns out it’s for all sorts of holidays, the traditional shape, which is a wreath, just happens to make people think of Christmas.

So I got up a little early to make it, then thought, why make just one? So I made two of something I’ve never actually made before and now I’ll be a little late for work. But truthfully I don’t mind because it turned out beautiful.



Natural Yeast Bread

In my search for ways to use my starter, I came across The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast by Warnock and Richardson. It has a lot of information about how to use starters to make all kinds of things, but today’s project was a simple bread recipe. It rose well using just my starter, I used a combination of white bread flour, whole wheat flour, and a little rye flour. It has a nice sour flavor, with just a hint of the rye.


Sourdough Rye Bread

I like this recipe for sourdough rye, but I’m rewriting it for better flow.

Ingredients-day 1

  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cups medium rye flour
  • 1 cup warm water

Method-day 1

mix above ingredients, cover, and ferment 12-24 hours at room temperature

Ingredients-day 2

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup+ all purpose flour

Method-day 2

  1. bloom yeast in water
  2. combine w.w. and ap flour, salt, sugar, and caraway seeds
  3. combine starter, yeast, and dry mix until dough comes together, knead 9-10 minutes
  4. add 1/2 c  a.p. flour (1 T at a time) until dough is still slightly tacky, and springs back–you may need more or less depending on your flour
  5. proof 1-1 1/2 hours, or until doubled
  6. preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  7. punch, knead, scale, bench, shape, cover lightly and proof 30 minutes or until almost doubled
  8. cut a couple of 3/4″ deep slashes in dough, spray with water
  9. bake 9 minutes, spraying with water at 3, 6, and 9 minutes
  10. reduce heat to 400 degrees, bake about 20-25 minutes or until it sounds hollow on the bottom
  11. allow to cool completely before slicing

I know that last instruction is hard, but it’s worth it!


The no kneading continues

I’ve made this a few times now and I’m making a couple of amendments to the recipe…
Crusty Bread
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 c sourdough starter (optional, but worth it)
  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.
  2. Add water and starter, mix until a shaggy mixture forms.
  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours (18 is preferable).
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  5. Pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let relax for about 30 minutes.  
  6. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid (foil or a sheet pan work just fine) in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  
  7. Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. 
  8. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. 
  9. After about 20 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. 
  10. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.

Bread 101

When making bread there are a number of concepts that are useful to be aware of. This is mostly for my own posterity, because I often use my blog as a means of recording things for my own reference, but in case these concepts are new to you, enjoy.

Basic steps to making bread:

  1. scaling (measuring ingredients)
  2. mixing
  3. fermentation
  4. punching
  5. scaling (measuring dough)
  6. rounding
  7. benching
  8. make-up and panning
  9. proofing
  10. baking
  11. cooling
  12. storing

Lean dough–dough with little or no fat

Rich dough–higher fat, sugar and sometimes egg

Tunneling–Over fermentation causes holes in product called tunnels. It is a desired outcome in some types of bread.

Young dough/under proofing (fermentation)–Under fermented dough, can result in bread that is too heavy.

Old dough/over proofing (fermentation)–Over fermented dough, can result in tunneling or crumbly bread. Can also be used to make new dough, as in sourdough.